NOAA update: Yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was declared a "spill of national significance." You knew that already, but what you may not know is the official federal definition:
"[A] spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge."BBC News: The Louisiana coast, where oil began washing ashore last night, is the most directly threatened.
McClatchy News: The dire effects of the spill, however, reach well beyond Louisiana, and likely will adversely impact fish, fowl, shellfish, mammals, and the food chain throughout the United States. "Louisiana, after Alaska, is the second largest seafood producing state" in the nation, McClatchy quotes Ralph Portier as saying. Portier is a microbiology professor at Louisiana State University "who has worked around the world cleaning up oil spills."
"Every crevice, creek, bayou, bay, where water flows in and out of coastal grasses — that's the habitat for all these coastal nurseries. If we lose it or it's impacted, we have a real long-term effect," Portier said.Timing of the oil spill "couldn't be worse for a number of fish," said Jerald Ault, a professor of marine biology at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Atlantic tarpon, an important sport fish in Florida, spawn from now to mid May in the Gulf and they'll be "right in the highway where this stuff is going to come through." The young are especially vulnerable to toxics from the oil spill, and the fishery already is in a precarious state, Ault said.
The overfished Atlantic bluefin tuna return from vast distances to spawn in an area very close to the spill, where the water is warm and full of nutrients flowing from the Mississippi River. The same area also supports the shrimp industry and many other fish.
McClatchy News also reports "Florida is almost certain to see effects from the spill... ." While there is a "good chance" the west coast of the Florida peninsula will be spared, Manatee County's natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker predicts, "Unfortunately, the Florida Panhandle and Keys, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean, are very much in danger."Pensacola News Journal reports this morning that "Coastlines and waterways near Pensacola were being hardened against an oily attack Thursday as contract crews strung and anchored floating oil barriers." However, "Buck Lee, Santa Rosa Island Authority director, said crews have not yet brought any protective equipment to the Pensacola Beach."
"Hopefully, within the next seven days, they'll get it up this way," he said.
The Journal seemingly missed it, but a thin, orange plastic boom line already has been strung across the "Project Greenshores" estuary at the north end of Three-Mile Bridge. (Click on photo at left and then squint.)
It's a river of oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day that officials say could be running for two months or more. If that prediction holds, much of the state's southeastern coast will become a world-watched environmental battleground that hasn't been seen in the United States since the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska 21 years ago.